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Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick
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Sworn in Steel

by Douglas Hulick

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Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick is the second book in Tales of the Kin and continues Drothe’s adventures thieving and scheming, but this time in a new locale! If you haven’t read Among Thieves, there will be some spoilers below, but be sure to skip to the end and enter to win a copy of Sworn in Steel from Penguin! If you have read Among Thieves, you are in for a treat since Sworn in Steel continues not too long after the end of Among Thieves and pulls our favorite master swordsman back into the mix soon enough ;-).
Note: I received Sworn in Steel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.
This book has adult content.



Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick (Tales of the Kin #2)
Published by Roc on May 6th, 2014
Genres: Adult, Fantasy
How I got my copy: Publisher

It’s been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and unexpectedly elevated himself into the ranks of the criminal elite. Now, as the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he’s learning just how good he used to have it.

With barely the beginnings of an organization to his name, Drothe is already being called out by other Gray Princes. And to make matters worse, when one dies, all signs point to Drothe as wielding the knife. As members of the Kin begin choosing sides – mostly against him – for what looks to be another impending war, Drothe is approached by a man who not only has the solution to Drothe’s most pressing problem, but an offer of redemption. The only problem is the offer isn’t for him.

Now Drothe finds himself on the way to the Despotate of Djan, the empire’s long-standing enemy, with an offer to make and a price on his head. And the grains of sand in the hour glass are running out, fast...

Strengths:
Remember how Among Thieves had all those amazing plot twists? I thought I was prepared for Sworn in Steel, but omg there are even more awesome plot twists! You’d think that I would be more likely to see things coming since now I know how crafty Hulick is, but I was still completely surprised and so so happy about it.
One of the shortcomings I found with Among Thieves was that it didn’t have much humor (which I for some reason expect with thieving shenanigans), but Sworn in Steel completely turned that around. I was chuckling quite often while reading Sworn in Steel, making me quite excited for the series’ potential as a whole :D.
Degan! So lots of tough stuff happens at the end of Among Thieves, yes? But really, what is the first thing that Drothe kind of has to do once things settle down? Go after Degan obviously! Without any spoilers, I’m just saying that Degan is awesome and we get to find out so much about the degan order too!
Sworn in Steel brings us to a new city as Drothe tries to figure things out: Djan! After hearing so much about djanese magic in Among Thieves, it was awesome to see how another major city in the world of the Kin operates and let me tell you that it is waaaaay different than the Empire.
It’s been a while since Among Thieves came out, but you shouldn’t worry too much about needing to remember details. Sworn in Steel includes lots of reminders about the important things that happened so you’ll be all set to just jump into Sworn in Steel.
I feel like secondary characters really flesh out a book and Sworn in Steel has the advantage of adding several new characters as well as getting to know some of previous book’s secondary characters better. I’m especially excited since it looks like my favorite secondary character (besides Degan obviously) is going to be sticking around for the third book!
I love it when multiple different plot lines weave beautifully together, especially when Drothe is the one doing the weaving :D. Clever MCs might be my favorite thing >.>.

Weaknesses:
As I said above, Sworn in Steel makes sure to include lots of reminders if it has been a while since you read book one. However, this got to be a bit inelegant and info-dumpy at times. Once we hit two solid pages of rehashing what happened previously, that’s probably a bad sign.
Sworn in Steel seemed a bit confused about where it wanted the plot to start, since it starts soon after Among Thieves, but then we go through a couple of time jumps without much exposition on what happened during that time. One of the jumps was a freaking month long! There was also then the odd habit of explaining in hindsight what happened during that jump, but in a very “report of what happened” way instead of storytelling.
Sworn in Steel has a rather slow start once you combine the info dumps about the previous book and the awkward way the timeline was handled. My advice though is to push through because it is worth it in the end!

Summary:
Sworn in Steel is an excellent sequel to Among Thieves and was definitely worth the wait. The intricacies of the plot lines, the depth of the relationships, and the level of consequences all top Among Thieves and Drothe somehow lives up to all his responsibilities. You’ll love seeing old friends and new faces along with a new pocket of the world. While the start is a bit slow, it definitely picks up and you might just find yourself up at 2am determined to finish (not that I have any personal experience with this at all >.>). ( )
  anyaejo | Aug 12, 2015 |
This book has a lot to live up to by the end of book one. Because Among Thieves had left Drothe as a Grey Prince, a master of plots and games that move entire organizations.

I finished the first book extremely doubtful. Drothe did utterly nothing to deserve that title and I really don't think he could hold it at all. One cannot just "learn" to play people and move them like chess pieces in a matter of days.

So going through this book and watching him stumble around, being kidnapped and tricked and utterly swindled.... Yeah I was still skeptical. To be quite honest, nothing in this book is Drothe taking the initiative. He is always responding. He goes to Djan because he is blackmailed by Wolf, he gets an assassin friend because they kidnap him, he takes down Fat Chair because of his relatives telling him to, he find Ivory because of Degan. It is never his own inclination. He is always being played when he is supposed to be the player. It's weird, so I'm glad the end clears it up.

Fowler is a surprise. She has a much bigger presence in this book. And the amount of appreciative glances from Drothe makes me think of a future relationship bound to happen.

I am glad that this book explained the Degans completely (or almost completely). My only have two complaints. One, that they feel too common. They seem like just another mercenary with nothing special besides their name and swordsmanship. In the first book and most of this one, I could imagine them being beat by a skillful person - especially since Drothe seems to do it on and off too. It makes them less magical or mystical or mysterious as their background might suggest. Second, that there is a minor problem with their lore. The Oath is really not explained well. So it started out as something that forced you to repay it. But there is no actual magic behind it now? So then what forces people to repay it? Honestly, at the very end when Drothe is called to repay his, what could possibly force him? Even legions of Degans can't do anything. He's run away before. He's beat/escaped from them before. So truly, what compels people to repay it?

However, there was one scene that I felt didn't make sense. The scene that explained Drothe's motivation for the entire book. It was the scene where Fowler scoffed at Drothe and told him he left to Djan because he wanted to be a Nose. And the Drothe agreed and ruminated on the idea that he wanted keep the power as a Grey Prince. ??? Did that even make sense?

Other than that, good action with moving plot. Good world building. Decent characters. Very good ending.

3.5 stars. Worth a read for sure. Will be looking for the future books. ( )
  NineLarks | Sep 15, 2014 |
At last, Sworn in Steel is in my hands and the days of wondering when this book will be released have finally come to an end. And it was absolutely worth the wait! Three years ago, at a time when I was just starting to get back into the Fantasy genre, I decided to pick up a debut novel from a fresh new talent and was particularly looking forward to enjoying a fun little yarn about a gang of thieves and scoundrels. With this book Douglas Hulick shows he has come a long way since Among Thieves, with a sequel that is even bigger, better and packed with more fun than the original.

How is that possible, you ask? I mean, in the first novel, the main character Drothe managed to kill a legend, rise to the top of the underworld to become the newest Gray Prince, and burned down a good portion of the imperial capital while he was at it. How on earth do you top that?

Well, if you’ve met Drothe, then you would know he’s always up for a challenge. Even if it’s just to outdo himself. “In way over your head” isn’t even in his vocabulary; I seriously love this guy.
Three months into his tenure of criminal overlord with barely a following to his name, Drothe is already the target of the other Gray Princes and has been framed for the murder of one of them. Someone obviously wants his attention. And so Drothe finds himself traveling to the faraway land of Djan, where Imperials like him are less than welcome, all to find an old friend and seek redemption for the oaths that he has broken. Who says thieves have no honor?

Drothe ends up doing quite a number on the Despotate of Djan. But Djan ends up doing quite a number of Drothe too. I’ve said this before with Among Thieves but I think it deserves saying again with Sworn in Steel: Douglas Hulick takes the idea of “something interesting must happen in every chapter” and takes that to the max. Drothe’s life is a hectic roller coaster ride that simply does not stop, and safety restraints are for suckers. Perhaps it’s because of this that the writing and breakneck pace of these novels put me in mind of the urban fantasy tone and style, despite the traditional high fantasy setting. If Drothe and Harry Dresden have one thing in common it’s that neither of them gets anywhere enough sleep.

Again, there will be twists and surprises aplenty, but I find the storytelling is much more refined and streamlined in Sworn in Steel. There was one ambitious plot twist in the first book that didn’t particularly work for me (though, it was one of those classic “Oh Drothe you sneaky, glorious bastard you” moments) but here there was none of that awkwardness here. All the different pieces of the plot came together beautifully, and I’m treated to a new world with new characters and new agendas, all of which made the mystery and intrigue in this book so delightfully compelling. I loved being introduced to the culture, peoples, and magic of Djan, and seeing Drothe out of his comfort zone and frantically coming up with his crazy schemes to regain the upper hand was just the cherry on top. There’s also at least one character making their appearance in this that I would be very excited to see again. All in all, the book has done a stellar job expanding the world and the characters we know in the Tales of the Kin. Like I said: bigger and better.

Ask yourself, do you enjoy your fantasy with some kick? Do you like rich, twisty plots that always keep you guessing? Do you feel you need more scoundrels in your life? If you answer yes to these then you should definitely check these books out. ( )
  stefferoo | Apr 28, 2014 |
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Dedication
For Jaime, who probably lost more sleep on this
one than I did. Thanks for putting up with me
above and beyond the call of matrimony.
And for my editor, Anne, who was patience
incarnate. May all your future sophomore
novelists be less of a pain than I was.
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I sat in the darkness, listening to the slap of the waves against the side of the boat, and watched as the outline of Ildrecca loomed towards me.
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"It's been three months since Drothe killed a legend, burned down a portion of the imperial capital, and found himself unexpectedly elevated into the ranks of the criminal elite. As the newest Gray Prince in the underworld, he's not only gained friends, but also rivals--and some of them aren't bothered by his newfound title. A prince's blood, as the saying goes, flows just as red as a beggar's. So when another Gray Prince is murdered and all signs point to Drothe as the hand behind the knife, he knows it's his blood that's in danger of being spilled. As former allies turn their backs and dark rumors begin to circulate, Drothe is approached by a man who says he can make everything right again. All he wants in exchange is a single favor. Now Drothe finds himself traveling to the Despotate of Djan, the empire's long-standing enemy, to search for the friend he betrayed--and the only person who can get him out of this mess. But the grains of sand are running out fast, and even if Drothe can find his friend, he may not be able to persuade him to help in time..."--Back cover.… (more)

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